It's been a while...it's been too long. My italics button has grown rusty and stiff. That ends today. The time is right to get back to something we used to do at Hogs Haven on a much more regular basis. That's right...today we are Boldly Hoping.
On this week's Hogs Haven Staff Meeting Podcast, we had Matt Terl join us to talk about pretty much anything that came to our warped minds. Matt had a great perch for a while over at Redskins.com, so his perspective on just about anything that has gone down at Redskins Park over the last few years is incredibly insightful.
Among the topics we covered was the apparent change in the culture of the Redskins organization. I was trying my hardest at 10 PM on a Tuesday night to verbalize the idea that Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen have, in fact, seemed successful in their attempt to root out the bad and build up the good...seems so simple. (The Coors Lights were helpful. (I know there are people that frown on Coors Light. I am a Budwesier guy at heart, but sometimes I need the light, refreshing taste of the Rockies. (I have never been to the Rockies, but they taste great.)))
It is not easy to suggest that Joe Gibbs was not as intrumental in "culture change" as we all want to believe. I do think he made an impact. I do think his presence affected Dan Snyder, but given the debacle that went down with Jim Zorn, it is hard for me to believe that the Redskins were "changed" after he left. We were better...but that is a relative term, and relatively speaking, we couldn't have been much worse from an organizational standpoint. I think that Joe Gibbs just brought something magical with him that had a way of making things not just seem better than they were, but actually made them better. As soon as he was gone though, that magic left with him. That is nobody's fault. That is not an indictment of anyone. (Speaking of indictments, has anyone checked up on my criminal case against Steve Spurrier? He should be serving a long sentence for what he did to Patrick Ramsey. You know where there also isn't a shred of pass protection? Prison.) I think it would be fair to argue that had Joe been able to stick around another couple seasons, perhaps more permanent change could have been implemented. Then again, permanence is a rare bird in the NFL.
At the end of the day, the biggest difference lies in the change from Vinny Cerrato to Bruce Allen. Has Allen made any mistakes? Only if you consider Donovan McNabb to be a colossal failure...so, yeah. But look at the kind of players Bruce and Mike have brought in to provide the foundation for this team in the years to come. They have brought in players who proved in college that they were hard workers and good leaders. How many of our current youngsters were team captains for their college teams? How many of them have been described in scouting publications as "high motor" guys with "strong work ethics?" When the front office took Ryan Kerrigan, how many people looked past those stated qualities of the kid from Purdue and chose to be underwhelmed by a guy they didn't see succeeding at a first-round pick level in the NFL? Yet, here was a guy who produced. All he did his rookie season was log 60+ tackles, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, one interception and one touchdown.
Our conversation with Matt Terl jumped around to all sorts of topics, but the question I cared about most was: "Is this new atmosphere/environment/culture sustainable?" Will it survive when Mike Shanahan is gone? The best franchises in the league do undergo change on the field, but the stability and continuity they hang onto as an organization becomes the rudder that keeps them great. Do we have the makings for such a rudder? Or will our sails fall limp when Shanahan and Allen blow out of town?
For my part, I am always looking at this thing from a 10-15 year perspective. I mean, we've been bad for 15 years, so why can't we try to be good for 15 years? It occurs to me we are starting to resemble the kind of organization that is ready to be successful--for more than just one game, or one year. The emphasis on depth at key positions by Shanahan makes me extremely optimistic. Perhaps we are beyond the days where being one-man deep up and down the roster was acceptable--especially when that one man was a high-priced free agent and his backup was a disgruntled player that knew he was never going to get a fair shake. Perhaps we are beyond the days where our season hinged on our ability to commit zero errors and suffer zero injuries.
A Golden Age of Redskins football is upon us. It is no coincidence that it matches up with the arrival of Robert Griffin III, but don't make the mistake of not appreciating the presence of Kirk Cousins. The investment in the depth at such a crucial position is only the latest indication that our team is setting itself up to succeed for the long haul, and setting itself up to overcome those maladies that afflict every team in the NFL.
Some of you are too young to remember when our team was not just good for a game here and there, but year in and year out. Some of you are too young to remember when the front office, head coach and owner worked in glorious harmony. None of you will be able to say that in five years.
That's how we do Boldly Hoping. That's the power of italics.